Two related points about the state of the increasingly crazy business we’re in. First, like delicate species in the ecosystem, magazines can’t survive if they don’t adapt. Second, rumors of print journalism’s death have been greatly exaggerated, but as with so many overstatements, there’s an embedded grain of truth, and it’s this: If we take the tastes and intelligence and patience of our readers for granted, we may as well close up shop.
You may have noticed the past few years that not every story in Texas Monthly is put together like every other; now you know why. A conscious effort has been made by our editors and writers to employ different delivery mechanisms for literary nonfiction, which is to say the investigative features, profiles of people and institutions, public interest pieces, and personal essays that have been our bread and butter for three decades. We live today at a moment when satellite radio, blogs, BlackBerrys, and the like have revolutionized the way we communicate—and we ignore the revolution at our peril. If we mean to keep our audience (some 300,000 paying customers and another 2 million lucky souls who happen upon someone else’s copy), we cannot keep doing the same old things the same old way. Even if our same old way is better than everyone else’s.
So we experiment. A few years back, senior editor John Spong acknowledged the tenth anniversary of the making of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused not with a conventional article but a telling of the tale by the people who were there; his oral history (“ The Spirit of ’76,” October 2003) was such a fabulous read that it was reprinted recently in the booklet accompanying the film’s DVD release. In November 2004 senior executive editor Paul Burka and the magazine’s founding editor, Bill Broyles, argued about George W. Bush and John Kerry in a much-talked-about e-mail exchange we published (“